How to choose your school

Get advice on things to consider when choosing a school to attend for post-secondary, including research and application tips.

Jun 19, 2017

When you’re a student in high school you get to make a few choices, like which option courses you want to take. But when it comes to post-secondary, all of the sudden it feels like you have nothing but choices to make! When you're ready to start your post-secondary journey, you get to make decisions like:

  • What school you want to go to
  • Where you want to live
  • Which program you’ll enroll in
  • What your major and minor will be
  • What classes you want to take
  • How to arrange your schedule
  • How you’ll pay for school

You get the picture. All these choices can be a little overwhelming. In this post I’ll focus on how I ended up choosing my school and the faculty I’m in, and I'll share some advice on how to choose your school.

Where to start

Of course, the first step of post-secondary planning is to know yourself and figure out where your interests lie. From there, you're gonna want to explore your options and discover the different schools and programs available to you.

You can do this from a few different starting points. I started by considering what sort of program I wanted to take. You might already know what school you want to go to, and just have to figure out which program to take. But if you’re like me, and you’re set on taking a particular program, you’ll need to figure out which schools even offer that program.

Remember: different schools offer different programs, so you may have to move to another city to find a school offering what you want to take. This is especially true if you’re a student living in a rural area or a small town. For more info check out Kelsey’s blog post on applying to schools in another city.

Do your research

Since I already knew what I wanted to study, it was fairly easy for me to figure out which schools offered the program I was interested in. You can use our handy Post-Secondary Institution Look-Up Tool to browse programs available at the publicly-funded schools in Alberta, or turn to Google to search for schools elsewhere.

I ended up finding two potential schools in my home city of Edmonton, and two schools in BC that offered the program I was interested in. In order to make a decision, I turned to Google for more research.

I explored each school’s website, checked out reviews and rankings, and found forums and blogs for more info. Forums like reddit were super helpful because I could read current and past students personal experiences about their time at these schools. Similar to the informational interviews I wrote about in another blog post, reading forums and reviews offered relatable stories and more subjective answers compared to the school’s official, polished website.

Be smart about applying

Although I found a lot of helpful information online, I was under a time crunch to start getting applications in and I still hadn’t made a choice. My next move was to apply to all four institutions to give myself a few more months to decide. Since applications were due in April, but school wouldn’t start until September, I’d have a few more months to deliberate as I waited to see which schools I was accepted to.

Unfortunately at the time I didn’t know about the ApplyAlberta website, so I ended up paying both an application fee and a transcript fee to the two schools in Alberta. Had I known about ApplyAlberta, I could’ve saved some money by only having to pay once for my transcript.

Although it was stressful waiting to find out if I was accepted to any of the schools I applied to, I felt better knowing I hadn’t put all my eggs in one basket by applying to four schools instead of just one. I figured my chances were pretty high of at least getting into one of the schools I applied to.

Things to consider when choosing a school

Finally responses began to come in, starting with an acceptance letter from a school in Edmonton, then a rejection from a school in Vancouver, followed by two more acceptances. Could you imagine if I’d only applied to the one school in Vancouver—I would’ve been rejected with no backup plan! Luckily I had three more schools to choose from.

When it came to choosing between the three schools I was accepted to, a major factor were the logistical concerns presented by this decision. Obviously if I were to stay at home, costs would be much lower overall and there would be a lot more family and social support available.

In addition to logistical concerns, I also took a closer look at the specific programs I was accepted into. I wanted to compare the programs between schools to figure out what would be my best fit. In the end, I determined that the best option for me was to stay at home and attend the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Once I made my choice, I followed the steps outlined in my acceptance letter. Once you've chosen your school, you'll be ready to make it happen too!


University of Alberta

I’m from a family of doctors, yet here I am taking random classes at university to figure out what really interests me.

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